‘Road Tattoo’ in Chicago Honors Gay and Lesbian Troops


Steed Taylor is a "tattoo artist" whose current project, which measures 25' x 652', went on display on North Streeter Drive at Chicago's Navy Pier over Memorial Day and is on display through October 2012.

Taylor tells us:

Galloon3Road tattoos are commemorative, site-specific, community-based, tattoo-inspired, public artworks on roads.  Unusual, evocative and beautiful, they explore the idea of a road being considered the skin of a community, thereby having a similar relationship to the public body as skin does to the private body.  People mark their skin as a means of commemoration, communication or ritual and a road can be marked for the same reasons.  Placed at locations of individual or community significance, road tattoos are composed of cultural designs previously appropriated to mark skin.  Names, or other information, are painted within the design, a nondenominational prayer commissioned for the piece is said and the design is painted in, covering over this information.  Eventually traffic and weather conditions dissolve them into the road.

Although gays and lesbians served in our armed forces since our country began, they are unknown.  They lived, worked and died in fear of being forced out of service regardless of their skill, bravery or years of exemplary performance. This ended with the repeal of DADT.  "As the first generation to serve openly in our armed services, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models for all those who will come after you," President Obama eloquently stated.  This road tattoo honors our nation's first openly gay and lesbian armed forces members by including their names in the piece.

The design is based on galloons, the decorative gold braiding found on dress uniforms.  Not only do galloons add pomp and ceremony, they are a public indication of the wearer's rank and years of specific service. In the road tattoo, the galloon braiding coalesce then unravel when viewed from a vehicle driving over it alluding to the ever present interaction of the personal and the public self.  Yellow in color as a nod to the gold of galloons, it is also a reminder of the caution these earlier service members faced when presenting their personal information.

(images via visual aids)